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« Reason

A New Face, A New Race

By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)

Published September 1, 2008

John McCain has taken pity on the weary millions of presidential campaign watchers and injected a wild card into the race for the home stretch. On Friday, McCain introduced his running mate, Sarah Palin, the relatively unknown governor of the biggest, yet least densely populated, state in the U.S.

The obvious subtext is that, if this were a normal presidential campaign, Ms. Palin wouldn’t have been considered. She has minimal gubernatorial experience and, before that, was mayor of Wasilla, a town of 6,715.

Recently, on Face the Nation, one notable Washington pundit had this to say about the selection of such a pick for the Vice Presidential spot:

"I think he's going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice. He's going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he's going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He's not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president.

"With all due respect again to Governor Palin, she's been a governor for two years; she's been able but undistinguished. I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that she's done.

"So if he were to pick Governor Palin, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, 'You know what? I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States.'"

Actually, I lied. That was Karl Rove talking about Tim Kaine as a potential Obama pick for VP. But he unwittingly made all the important points against his party's pick of Ms. Palin. She was an "intensely political choice," pandering insultingly to women in hopes that they'll overlook all of Ms. Palin's positions on the issues and merely regard her gender. She has no distinguished record that qualifies her to fill in as President in any of the likely scenarios that play out given McCain's health risks and advanced age.

Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers summed up the problem thus, "McCain had to protect his reputation as an opponent of status quo Washington. He had to pick someone with the shortest Washington résumé. He did that. He picked someone the right wing is going to be happy about. But it’s a gamble. The question is, what does it do to the argument that Obama’s not ready?"

On the talk-show circuit Sunday, Rudy Giuliani gave a preview of how the Republicans are going to attempt to answer this question over the coming weeks, "She had to make decisions. All Senator Obama has had to do is talk. That's all he does." Joe Lieberman went one laughable step further with this line, "[It's] a little bit like opening a door and letting some fresh Alaska air into Washington."

In his Sunday column, New York Times columnist Frank Rich posits the most likely candidate-in-waiting was Democrat turncoat Joe Lieberman himself. "The main reason McCain knuckled under to the religious right by picking Palin is that he actually believes there’s a large army of embittered Hillary loyalists who will vote for a hard-line conservative simply because she’s a woman. That’s what happens when you listen to the TV news echo chamber."

Columnist Gail Collins speaks to the feminist viewpoint I've heard many of my female friends locally say, "This year, Hillary Clinton took things to a whole new level. She didn’t run for president as a symbol but as the best-prepared candidate in the Democratic pack. Whether you liked her or not, she convinced the nation that women could be qualified to both run the country and be commander in chief. That was an enormous breakthrough, and Palin's nomination feels, in comparison, like a step back."

The talking heads have been attempting to hammer home what they hope will be the defining image of Sarah Palin as "reformer" and someone who has "taken on the oil industry." Of course, as someone who favors drilling in ANWAR and who doesn't admit climate change is man-made, it's hard to understand just how she is differentiating herself from the interests of those oil companies, despite apparently successfully pushing their corporate taxes upwards (according to her Wikipeda profile).

So, McCain has at least made things interesting again, though not as interesting as if he had chosen say, Michael Palin as a running mate. Nevertheless, the home stretch is in sight. And, if you're as tired of the election as my wife is, both of those developments are welcome.


Have a topic you'd like to read about? Or just want to give your feedback? E-mail me at reason -at- tylersclark.com



1mtobias(2 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Palin, who portrays herself as a fiscal conservative, racked up nearly $20 million in long-term debt as mayor of the tiny town of Wasilla — that amounts to $3,000 per resident. She argues that the debt was needed to fund improvements.


Toward the very bottom.

Not for America now.

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2One_Who_Stayed(240 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Michael Palin - you crack me up Tyler. . . .

That Parrot's dead - its bloody deceased - it is an EX-Parrot!

No it isn't - its just asleep . . .

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3ytownoptimist(86 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Excellent commentary Tyler! Female Hillary supporters have been insulted because the Republicans think that they will jump ship from a fellow Democrat just because Palin is now on the Republican ticket. Um, do they not notice that Palin's viewpoints on women's reproductive rights and many other Democrat platforms are entirely opposite from Hillary's? Palin should stay Governor of Alaska and focus on her family which seems to desperately need her at this time for a multitude of reasons that are so obvious they don't really need listed. Being on the campaign trail 24/7 for the next 3 months is not what I call "family values" either.

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4lucy(123 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Predictably, Palin's mothering, rather than her politicing, is drawing the most attention in the press right now. However, I'm sure it's arguable that Palin brought it upon herself.

Kudos to you, Tyler, for writing about Palin's non-uterine qualifications, or rather, lack thereof.

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5tylersclark(182 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for the comments, everyone. It will be interesting to see if the media get schooled by the public for their treatment of women's issues with respect to Palin's family issues, as they did with respect to balance in the case of Hillary Clinton.

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6Tugboat(759 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Voters Seen as Members of the Meat Cutters' Union - "People don't vote for presidential candidates in this country; they vote against them. Thus the election is usually the butchery of a villain rather than the exaltation of a hero."

HL Mencken in 1935

"The personal qualities necessary for attaining office are practically the opposite of those demanded by the office itself. The trouble with the damn system is that it selects for the skills needed to get elected, and nothing else. A test that you can only pass by cheating can't possibly select honest people." -- James P. Hogan

"Our current political system ensures not that the worst will get on top -- though they often do -- but that the best will never even apply." -- Paul Jacob

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7Woody(474 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago


Do me a favor, name some of Obama's legislative accomplishments. What has he done in the 2 years he has been in the US Senate, besides running for President?

Palin in her political career has taken on corruption in her state and her own party. She ran against and defeated a sitting Governor in her own party. She took on corruption as an Oil and Gas Commissioner. She turned back the pork barrel money the government was going to spend on the bridge to no where.

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8KidsOnFire(8 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago


You wrote, "She turned back the pork barrel money the government was going to spend on the bridge to no where."

Not really. Read about it here :: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/01/us/...

She was at least twice for the "Bridge to Nowhere" pork before she was against it. And she was only against it after it became a news story.

And Alaska/Palin got the $220 million in federal pork barrel money even though the bridge project didn't go forward.

So actually she had NOT, "... turned back the pork barrel money the government was going to spend on the bridge to no where."

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9Woody(474 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Looks to me like she got the money redirected to more useful projects.

Maybe the Traf man could have learned from her, unlike investing $26 million in a convocation center that will end up costing the city an arm and a leg when all is said and done.

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10JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Obama in the Senate:

Member, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Chairman, Subcommittee on European Affairs
Member, Subcommittee on African Affairs
Member, Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Member, Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs and International Environmental Protection

Member, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Member, Subcommittee on Children and Families
Member, Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety

Member, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Member, Subcommittee on Ad Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration
Member, Subcommittee on Investigations
Member, Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security

Member, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

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11talkinghead(9 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

@ Tyler, For being a true Obama believer I think you handled this pretty well. You made the anti-Palin points that you have to make but you're not grasping at straws like so many of the leftest blogs are.

However, it's very clear that this pick is not taking the experience issue off of the table as the DNC would have us believe. It's tarnishing the "Change" theme more than anything, even though Palin represents no more real change than Barack, which in reality is very little.

@JeffLebowski that is not a list of accomplishments. Committees and sub-committees CAN wheeled much power but a junior senator has little impact on the legislative agenda of the Senate. This "inexperienced" pick by McCain is making the dems a bit uneasy. In an ordinary election Palin's relative inexperience would make great fodder. However, her resume stacks up very well against Obama's. Obama has never run anything but Palin has, no matter how small. (Please correct this statement if I'm wrong.)

Does McCain think he's going to pick up a slew of disenfranchised Hilary supporters? Of course not. He doesn't need to. He just needs to pick up a few percentage points and this will help him attract more women, like it or not.

She's added some sizzle to the race. People are excited about her and you'll have to admit that no one has ever been excited about Joe Biden, anywhere.

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12ytownoptimist(86 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

I think there are as many closet "anti-teenage pregnancy" people out there as there are closet bigots. Remember the outcry when Jamie Lynn Spears got pregnant? All of a sudden the country is going to think it is fine for a mother to campaign rather than help her teen daughter deal with the most all consuming, life changing experience one can go through? Its not sexist to say a teen (child) needs her mother at this time.
As for Obama's experience, he got into politics to help people (not oil). He has been at the down & dirty local level helping struggling communities. To say that isn't experience or show a man with good values & an open heart is just ridiculous.

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13talkinghead(9 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

@ ytownoptimist, you may be right but I don't think so. I think if the dems make Palin's teen daughter an issue this will only make her a sympathetic and "real" human character.

I don't think anyone is a supporter of teen pregnancy. However, the conservative base, which is most likely to be offended by such a revelation will be easily turned by being reminded that she chose to keep the baby.

I do think it's interesting that Obama has chosen to make the claim that he is more qualified to be president than Palin because he's running a large campaign. That's a good one.


BTW, are you saying that women can't deal with real world issues at home and be an effective leader in the office? Can men?

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14ytownoptimist(86 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm saying that a political, national position is not akin to a 9 to 5 job. Anyone that has worked on a campaign, on the Hill or in big time politics knows that it consumes your life (no weekends off). Being a parent is life consuming, too. When both parents work in the capacity that the Palins do, who is home with the children? 5 children! One is a special needs infant and that takes a lot of time and energy. It can be a father or mother. International affairs, domestic crisis don't allow one to rush home and go over homework with one's children. There is a reason most women in a high political position, either D or R, have older children and not infants or early grade school year children. Climbing up the political ladder takes a lot of time away from the family. Fund raisers go on late. I have no issue if a father is at home for the kids (in this situation). Don't think I'm bashing women or single parents. I'm strictly talking about this situation (which isn't your typical situation by far).
Yes, conservatives will praise that the Bristol is keeping the child and forget that they are proponents of abstinence (because we know learning about birth control just leads to a life of debauchery ;)) when it suits them. I'm not saying the Dems will make this an issue but just go read the blogs all over the internet, whether they are right or left leaning, and you will see that Americans certainly are debating this topic.

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15talkinghead(9 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

@ ytownoptimist: Those issues are silly, really. The same thing could be said of Barack. His children are 7 and 9 and Michelle isn't exactly a run of the mill stay at home mom.

Who cares. To say Palin can't handle the job because of family obligations sets the womans movement back 40 years. Disagree on the merits of the candidates and level of experience (or lack there of.)

Would you ask the same questions of a man? It's mainly liberal blogs that are making this an issue. Funny thing is that they'll alienate the moderate voters that Palin is likely to attract. A voting block that has no issue with a teen getting herself in trouble (and acceptability for her actions) and a woman, who somehow, has manged to amass more experience than Obama with plate that's more full at home.

Hilary isn't really that experienced but IMHO she schooled Obama in the democratic debates and exposed his naivety. She would have been the far stronger candidate.

At the end of the day Palin is more interesting than the other three candidates combined. I think she'll campaign and perform better than expected in the debates and has an excellent chance of helping McCain win a close election in November.

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16JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

None of this has the least bearing on her gender or her daughter’s actions. Flat out nothing. Regardless of either she is unqualified to lead the U.S. Senate.

Obama’s appointments are most certainly accomplishments, especially in Washington where you need to know people to get things done -- although I don't agree that networking is most important it is certainly not unimportant. Given the fact that Obama has been a senator for a relatively short period of time this should speak volumes...his competence obviously warrants appointment to these committees and based on the fact that his own party has majority I'd beg to differ regarding his impact.

The fact that people consider Palin's "executive experience" to outweigh the others in the campaign (to include McCain's) is deeply, deeply flawed. This is like saying someone who ran a high school newspaper for 18 months has more leadership experience than someone like Biden who has been in Congress for 30+ years...it doesn't add up. While it’s true that leadership exists in many forms the notion that experience in leading a small town in Alaska (or the whole state, for that matter) parallels the leadership experience of a member of the U.S. Senate is absurd, regardless of the Senator’s length of term.

We can agree to disagree. I think McCain is trolling for votes by pandering to women; plain and simple media games. There again, perhaps the bar has been lowered to this extent by the current administration and as a result one’s religious beliefs and stance on creationism are what’s really important, not their pragmatism and experience.

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17talkinghead(9 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Wow, I thought this thread would be hopping. I would say Sarah Palin did pretty well. I don't think it was necessarily the home run all of the pundits are saying that it was but she was better Biden IMHO.

The speech was well written and snarky. I think she had the right to deliver this kind of speech once. However, she's going to have to come up with more and do it without a speech writer in the debates.

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18ytownoptimist(86 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Its probably not all that commented upon because Tyler didn't put "Palin" in the topic title. I bet more new people would be checking it out if it was readily identifiable on the home page.

I'll give you it was a good speech as far as proper format but I found it lacking in true substance. Her snarkiness came across like being lectured by a teacher when you did something wrong. If Hillary used the same style, she would have been ripped apart for it. I find a double standard for everything from the Republicans now. If Palin was a Democrat going through the same family situation or had the same professional background, pit bulls like Rove, O'Reilly and Limbaugh would be all over the Dems for our "horrible" liberal lifestyles and lack of experience. And, they would be hard pressed to compliment a Democrat for having family values. After all, how many Republicans are giving Biden credit for coming home every evening to raise his sons? Or, why is Obama's fathering style being analyzed when Michelle is there with her girls all the time? I guess a two parent family isn't good enough if both parents are Democrats.

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19talkinghead(9 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

@ ytownoptimist: I'll disagree with you on the Hillary points. I think Hillary is every bit as abrasive as Palin, probably more so. At this point we don't have much to compare. The more you disagree the more abrasive it seems.

If you really think about it and are honest, more voting women have a lot more in common with Palin than with Hillary. Palin actually was and is involved with her children and their activities. Her husband has worked a regular job. She's stuck it out in a small town and been a member of the PTA. That's an interesting story even if you don't agree with many of her views.

The main difference between Palin and North Eastern liberals is that she's practical and down to earth.

The lecture tone was aimed at the democratic operatives that worked so hard up until the speech to question everything about Palin and her family behind the scenes. Politics is a dirty business. For every Rove there is a Carville or Stephanopoulos.

As a side, for all of the whining liberals do about Fox News at least they didn't make him their Chief Washington Correspondent.

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